In this talk, Halberstam argued against new versions of humanism that seek life at all costs, that seek to extend life, prolong life, invest in the good life, and that see death as the ultimate form of failure. Halberstam used the metaphor of the zombie to explore new dynamics between prolonged life for the wealthy and the diminished opportunities for longevity for everyone else. Our current matrix of extended life can be understood in terms of the bio-political but this is a ‘zombie biopolitics’ that creates new balancing acts between bio- and necro-political regimes. Zombie humanism, accordingly, arrogates liveliness, dynamism, vibrancy and resonance for itself and consigns all other forms of being to the status of inertia and stasis.
Judith Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at USC (University of Southern California). Halberstam is the author of five books including Female Masculinity (1998), The Queer Art of Failure (2011), and most recently Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of the Normal (2012). Halberstam works generally in the areas of queer theory, visual and popular culture, gender studies and art, and blogs at bullybloggers.wordpress.com as well as jackhalberstam.com. Halberstam is currently working on a book on “the wild.”
The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series ERRANS. The English verb ‘to err’ has largely lost its positive connotations. It no longer invokes wandering, rambling, or roaming, and is now understood negatively in relation to a prescribed path or goal. To be sure, errors are acknowledged to play an important role in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but usually only to the extent that their recognition allows for their elimination, correction, and avoidance. Recognizing that a critique of ideals of productivity, success, goal-orientation, and determination is necessarily paradoxical, the lecture series takes the shifting meanings of ‘erring’ – connoting the violation of norms as well as the activity of wandering – as a prompt to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities, and to do so across different disciplines and discourses.
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